Battling head to head across virtual battlefields is a favorite pastime of today’s teen video gamers. Pastor Joe Hamilton of First Christian Reformed Church in Thunder Bay, Ontario, who calls himself a gamer, created “a gaming frenzy community” for teen gamers. On the last Friday night of every month and special days in the summer months, teens arrive ready to “feed the frenzy”—challenging one another in games such as Halo or Call of Duty. “Many of the kids play hockey all year long and then go home and play a video game alone. I am getting them out to play video games with others. It’s the social aspect of gaming,” said Hamilton.
On July 24 Hamilton hosted a 10-hour League of Legends tournament. League of Legends is a free, fast-paced computer game in which teams battle head to head with the goal of taking down the enemy’s base. Ten teenage boys, along with their pastor, formed teams of three and strategized together to achieve victory.
Hamilton started the video game nights as a way to connect with kids on the fringe. “I like being able to present the image of a pastor they have never seen before. They have come up to me after sermons, and I’m not sure they would be willing to [do that] if I was not playing games with them.”
Many of these teens have parents who grew up in the “Atari age” and are unfamiliar with today’s games. Hamilton said there is a genre of games that is notorious for its verbally abusive environment. “Parents are oblivious to this reality because no one in an adult leadership role enters into this space. I know the slang that goes with some verbally abusive things. . . . I can help them think critically about the stuff they are playing,” he said.
First CRC’s video gaming ministry began in February. The church plans to host an all-night video gaming event at the end of the summer.